After two years' training, limbless man Philippe Croizon is ready to swim the Channel

Philippe Croizon lost his limbs in an accident 16 years ago. In 2008, he could not even swim two lengths of a swimming pool. Next week, Mr Croizon will attempt to become the first limbless person to swim the 21 miles between England and France.

Mr Croizon, 42, from Saint-Rémy-sur-Creuse in west France, lost his arms and legs after receiving an electric shock at home. While in hospital, he was inspired by a documentary about an English woman who had swum the Channel earlier that year.

"Two solutions were offered to me [after the accident]: to die or decide to live," Mr Croizon told The Independent. "I chose to rebuild myself. I watched that documentary and thought 'why not me'?"

After two years of training up to 35 hours per week, Mr Croizon is now ready to take on the challenge. To aid the swim, he will use specially made prosthetic legs with flippers attached and a snorkel. What remains of his upper arms will stabilise him.

Most Channel swimmers take up to 10 hours to complete the feat at a speed of approximately 2.5 miles per hour. Mr Croizon is expecting to do it in 20 to 24 hours, at a speed of 1.8 miles per hour, taking regular breaks of one minute to eat and drink.

Training has been arduous for the amputee, who never took an interest in swimming before the accident. When he first embarked on the project, it seemed a hopeless idea.

"When I first met him in September 2008, he couldn't even do two lengths," said his coach, Valérie Carbonel. "He had no endurance; his prosthetics didn't propel him at all." Two years later, Mr Croizon completed a test-swim between the island of Noirmoutier and Pornic in the Loire estuary in five hours, one hour quicker than expected.

The self-confessed "sofa sportsman" has lost over one and a half stone due to the intense fitness schedule of weight training, cardio exercise and swimming.

Family have been very important during the training. "I have a big family and they are all very happy for me. After two years of only eating, sleeping and swimming, they have been affected by the process too," he said. "When I'm swimming I think of my children. They give me a lot of inspiration; help me to keep strong mentally."

Mr Croizon has received letters of support from President Sarkozy and other prominent politicians. "This is a dream day for me. I am doing this, above all, for myself, but also to set an example. I want to show people who suffer that this is doable, that you always have to fight," Mr Croizon said.

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